Fi­nal six re­li­gion-theme books of­fered for Christ­mas lists.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Arkansas - Our fi­nal picks for read­ers on your Christ­mas list FRAN­CISCA JONES

Travel, sci­ence and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment keep com­pany with the saints of yore and the virtue of grat­i­tude for the con­clud­ing six vol­umes of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette’s an­nual roundup of re­li­gion-theme gifts for the book lovers on your Christ­mas list.

Vin­tage Saints and Sin­ners: 25 Chris­tians Who Trans­formed My Faith by Karen Wright Marsh (In­terVar­sity Press, $20)

It wasn’t Marsh’s goal to delve into the lives of no­table Chris­tians and present in-depth bi­ogra­phies when she be­gan work on Vin­tage Saints and Sin­ners, but rather to tell tales from their lives to make the saints whose joys and strug­gles she has iden­ti­fied with through­out her spir­i­tual jour­ney and to bring to light their re­lata­bil­ity in to­day’s world.

Martin Luther ex­pe­ri­enced life­long anx­i­ety de­spite his even­tual spir­i­tual free­dom; evan­ge­list and preacher A.W. Tozer’s in­tense com­mit­ment to God and teach­ing about spir­i­tu­al­ity came at the ex­pense of his per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with his wife and seven chil­dren. Marsh’s lat­est book lets read­ers con­nect with “saints and sin­ners” on a deeper, more per­sonal level.

Thou Shalt In­no­vate: How Is­raeli In­ge­nu­ity Re­pairs the World by Avi Jorisch (Ge­fen Pub­lish­ing House, $27)

Ac­cord­ing to Jewish mys­ti­cal tra­di­tion, Jorisch says, the di­vine power of God’s force in fill­ing 10 “ra­di­ant ves­sels” was enough to shat­ter them and send sparks fly­ing, and it’s each per­son’s pur­pose to gather those sparks and re­store God’s bro­ken ves­sels. It’s the Jewish idea of Tikkun Olam — re­pair­ing the world through work that ben­e­fits oth­ers — that lies be­hind the work of 15 Is­raeli in­no­va­tors in fields in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture, med­i­cal de­vices and emer­gency care, and the im­pact those tech­nolo­gies have made on the world.

This is the fifth book for Jorisch, a se­nior fel­low at the Amer­i­can For­eign Pol­icy Coun­cil. Born into a fam­ily of Holo­caust sur­vivors, he spent much of his child­hood liv­ing in Is­rael be­fore work­ing in pub­lic pol­icy and gov­ern­ment, where he spent time work­ing in ter­ror­ism and il­licit fi­nance. “Is­rael’s faults and blem­ishes have been ap­par­ent,” Jorisch says, “but so too have its mirac­u­lous prom­ise and re­mark­able achieve­ments.”

The Cre­ator Re­vealed: A Physi­cist Ex­am­ines the Big Bang and the Bi­ble by Michael G. Strauss (WestBow Press, $13.95)

Strauss — whose fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were min­is­ters — sets the stage for con­ver­sa­tion about some of the larger sci­ence vs. faith ques­tions and says the two con­cepts don’t have to be at odds.

Begin­ning with a break­down of ba­sic molec­u­lar hier­ar­chy that read­ers can grasp — and with a chap­ter in­cluded on “ap­pro­pri­ate rules” with re­gard to bib­li­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion — the par­ti­cle physi­cist and Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa at Nor­man pro­fes­sor re­views sci­en­tific ev­i­dence in sup­port of the Big Bang as a the­is­tic the­ory. With thor­ough use of Scrip­ture, Strauss also takes read­ers through a day-by-day break­down of the six days in which the Bi­ble says God cre­ated the world (ac­knowl­edg­ing that schol­ars have not agreed on the length of a day as it’s men­tioned in the Bi­ble).

The Cre­ator Re­vealed is meant to be an in­tro­duc­tion, in­spired af­ter fur­nish­ing a friend of his wife’s with texts for home-school­ing her son on the topic of faith and sci­ence, only to find they had dif­fi­culty grasp­ing the con­cepts. Strauss ac­knowl­edges that many of the minu­tiae in those sci­en­tific de­tails are left out but pro­vides a list for fur­ther read­ing (and his web­site ad­dress) on the sub­ject of sci­ence and faith, leav­ing the door open for those with more ques­tions.

Anx­ious for Noth­ing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lu­cado (Thomas Nel­son, $22.99)

Philip­pi­ans 4:6-7 is the most un­der­lined pas­sage in the Bi­ble, Lu­cado says, and in­vites the reader to re­frame their woes and anx­i­eties and “win the war on worry.” Lu­cado’s steady-paced nar­ra­tion is sprin­kled gen­er­ously with ref­er­ences to Scrip­ture as he rec­om­mends turn­ing to Christ as “our place of refuge and se­cu­rity, and that anx­i­ety doesn’t have to be a con­stant in peo­ples’ lives.

Lu­cado at­tributes the lev­els of worry in so­ci­ety to change — and fast change, at that — in the world around us, but re­it­er­ates through­out the book that through prayer and med­i­ta­tions, one can strive to “con­front the chaos” and “choose calm.”

Grate­ful: The Trans­for­ma­tive Power of Giv­ing Thanks by Diana But­ler Bass (HarperOne, $26.99)

But­ler Bass re­counts her life­long strug­gles with her abil­ity to ex­press thank­ful­ness, call­ing her­self at one time a self-pro­fessed “grat­i­tude klutz,” but be­comes gal­va­nized to pur­sue and share un­der­stand­ings of what it means to be grate­ful that tran­scend thank-you notes and eti­quette books.

The book is roughly di­vided into two “Me” chap­ters in an ex­plo­ration of grat­i­tude with re­gard to one­self, and two “We chap­ters” about grat­i­tude as it ap­plies to thank­ful­ness in so­ci­ety and com­mu­nity. A thor­oughly re­searched book, she taps into the wis­doms from the likes of Di­et­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer and Walter Bruegge­mann, and ex­am­ines the cul­tural phe­nom­e­non of grat­i­tude through such events as the Chicago Cubs’ win­ning the World Se­ries in the fall of 2016 af­ter a 108-year los­ing streak.

But­ler Bass strives to help read­ers un­der­stand the “trans­for­ma­tive power” of con­vert­ing thoughts of grat­i­tude into ex­pres­sion.

Best Foot For­ward: A Pil­grim’s Guide to the Sa­cred Sites of the Bud­dha by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse (Shamb­hala, $16.95) The rit­ual of pil­grim­age is one that spans many faiths, and Best Foot For­ward pro­vides ad­vice and in­sight for those in­ter­ested in vis­it­ing four of the sa­cred sites of Bud­dhism, in­clud­ing Lumbini, Bud­dha’s place of birth; Bod­hgaya, the place of Bud­dha’s en­light­en­ment; and Sar­nath, where he first taught the Dharma.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rin­poche, a Ti­betan Bud­dhist lama, also tells what one can ex­pect about the en­vi­ron­ments sur­round­ing the holy sites, with sug­gested top­ics for con­tem­pla­tion ap­pro­pri­ate to each lo­ca­tion. With a con­clud­ing sec­tion of prayers and mantras, Best Foot For­ward can also dou­ble as a pil­grim­age com­pan­ion.

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